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October 21, 2014

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Another record for Denver? Vegas bettors backed Broncos big all season

Denver continues to draw bulk of the Super Bowl action

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Joe Mahoney / Associated Press

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) looks to pass during the first half of the AFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, in Denver.

Super Bowl 48

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Denver minus-2.5 — 53.7%
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Sports books stuffed gamblers for a solid loss throughout the 2013-2014 NFL season.

They would have sacked patrons for a more devastating setback if it weren’t for the team they’re favoring in the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos, who are holding steady at minus-2.5 over the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s big game, were the rock the general betting public clung to in a year that mostly went the house’s way.

“We needed to root against the Broncos every single week except for one,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of William Hill sports books. “When they played the Patriots in the playoffs, we needed the Broncos and they came through for us. But with 16 regular-season games and two in the playoffs, that’s 17 out of 18 games we were against them.”

The Broncos typically bucked oddsmakers, going 12-6 against the spread to force casinos to pay out more tickets than any other team.

Public bettors hitch onto the cash wagon of one or two of the best NFL teams every year, but they saddled Denver with particularly heavy weight. The volume of money the Broncos attracted consistently, according to bookmakers, was historic and on par with the 2007-2008 New England Patriots, who went undefeated until losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42 as 12-point favorites.

“As far as popularity went, no one was close to Denver’s level,” said Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito. “Seattle was a popular team — with San Francisco, New England, Green Bay — and when they were at home, it was a whole different story. But there was no comparison to Denver.”

It feels right then that the Broncos are supplying one final headache after getting oddsmakers to reach for the aspirin bottle repeatedly over the past five months.

Several books opened Seattle as the Super Bowl favorite at the conclusion of the conference championship games, but Denver action swung the line within minutes. The steam has never cooled off, as most sports books in town are reporting roughly a 2-to-1 edge in tickets and money on the Broncos.

“With most of our action coming 48 and 24 hours leading up to kickoff, a lot can still change,” Esposito said. “But it’s a little bit different this year just because Denver has been such a public team and Peyton Manning is the most popular player in the league.”

Manning created the yearlong action avalanche with his performance in the opening game of the season when the Broncos were a 7.5-point favorite hosting the defending champion Baltimore Ravens. Bettors weren’t sold on Denver at kickoff — some sports books even had more money on the underdog — but probably had changed their minds six minutes into the second half.

Manning threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter that night on his way to seven overall, a statistic that stuck with gamblers as they went to the window for the next few weeks. The Broncos won big and covered in each of their next three games.

They went on a three-game noncovering slide afterwards — a bigger downturn than the Seahawks, who also went 15-3 straight up and 12-6 against the spread, ever endured this season — but bettors were never scared away. By that time, after all, Denver was on pace to set all kinds of offensive records that they later achieved, such as scoring 606 points behind 55 touchdown passes from Manning.

“The public loves a team that can score points, and they did it in record fashion,” Bogdanovich said. “Manning was putting up so many points that everyone became super-infatuated.”

The obsession with Manning continues into the Super Bowl. He’s the player with far and away the most proposition wagers posted on betting boards.

Esposito reported bettors like Manning to go over 288.5 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns. Station Casinos are also attracting money on Manning in a prop asking whether he will throw for more yards than former Denver great John Elway in the franchise’s previous Super Bowl appearance.

The “yes” pays an attractive plus-170 (risking $1 to win $1.70) with Elway’s total of 336 yards in a 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 33 a high number to reach.

Manning options at William Hill include several cross-sport props, including whether the quarterback will have more passing attempts than LeBron James does points, assists and rebounds against the Knicks on Saturday. James’ three combined stat categories are favored by a half.

“Everything with Manning is drawing money already,” Bogdanovich said. “That’s where we’re writing most of our business — passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards, longest completion, everything.”

Accounting for as much as 60 percent of the overall handle, the props will play the biggest factor in determining whether Nevada sports books make money on the Super Bowl for the sixth straight year.

That’s encouraging to bookmakers because if the point spread alone predominately decided profit, they’d need the Broncos to stumble as of now. And that hasn’t worked out well over the course of the season.

“People really believed they would be the team all year,” Esposito said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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